Lester the man to beat at Lahinch
 Irish Amateur Open champion Peter O'Keeffe in action at Lahinch. Picture © Gordon Adair

Irish Amateur Open champion Peter O'Keeffe in action at Lahinch. Picture © Gordon Adair

The mental game might be key but there’s nothing like a razor sharp short game to intimidate the opposition when the west wind is howling and the rain coming in sideways at Lahinch.

At least that’s what Hermitage’s Rowan Lester will be hoping after he chipped in twice, for birdie at the 11th and then for a closing eagle three at the last, to establish himself as the man to beat in the Pierse Motors Volkswagen sponsored South of Ireland Amateur Open Championship.

On another day of roaring winds and squally showers on the Clare coast, the 21-year old shot the best score of the day for the second day running, adding a one-under 71 to his opening 72 to lead the 64 qualifiers by four strokes on one-under 143 from Tramore’s Robin Dawson.

“That’s very impressive golf by Rowan,” said Dawson after he shot a battling 73 to finish on three-over 147 with Balbriggan’s Robbie Cannon (73) on five over and Castle’s Alex Gleeson (72) and Laytown and Bettystown’s Eugene Smith (73) a shot further back on another day of attrition. 

The afternoon starters got the worst of the weather but while the organisers moved to forward tees to improve the pace of play, the scoring average was 80.11 and the cut for the top 64 fell at 16-over par with seven of the ten players on 160 making it through.

Almost all the big names survived though Irish Boys champion Mark Power (81) was left to rue a bogey-bogey finish as he ended on 161 with Tiarnan McLarnon while Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty, the leading qualifier in the British Amateur and the "North", also finished outside the mark on 162.

 Irish Amateur Close champion Alex Gleeson (Castle) hits an iron down the fourth in the second qualifying round in the South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch. Picture © Gordon Adair

Irish Amateur Close champion Alex Gleeson (Castle) hits an iron down the fourth in the second qualifying round in the South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch. Picture © Gordon Adair

Defending champion Conor Purcell (76) finished tied sixth on 151 with Geoff Lenehan (74) and Conor O’Rourke (75) as Lahinch, despite measuring less than 6,600 yards, proved a massively tough test. 

It didn’t look that way for Lester.

Riding a wave of confidence following his maiden championship victory in the North of Ireland two weeks ago, he took the rough with the smooth.

“I chipped and putted really well today, and that was the main thing,” the wiry Hermitage man said after a round that featured some impressive par saves. “My short game has been very sharp. 

“No matter how good you are off the tee, no matter how well you hit it, you are still going to miss a lot of greens and have to make a few up and downs either way.”

Far from fleeing the favourite’s tag, his message to the rest is one of defiance and confidence.

“Am I the target now?” he said of potentially leading the qualifiers. “Maybe I am. But it doesn’t bother me. It might bother them.”

Lester bogeyed the testing third but birdied the fourth after a 360-yard drive that skirted the hill and left him a 60-degree wedge to the green from just over 100 yards.

After a bogey at the 10th, he chipped in for birdie at the 11th, which was playing at just 132 yards from the forward markers, yet still required a three-quarter five-iron from the Texas Wesleyan man.

Lester then made a Houdini-like escape to save par at the 13th, single-putting from seven feet after finding trouble left of the green.

And while he couldn’t save par from left of the 17th, he made up for it at the 500-yard 18th by chipping in again, this time for eagle and the first sub-par round of the week.

Dawson finished on three-over after rounds of 74 and 73 and hopes to make a run at the title having reached the quarter-finals on his debut last year.

As for Irish Close champion Gleeson, the Dubliner had two eagles — at the second and 12th— in a level par 72 and following his run to the semifinals of the “North” he appears to be in the mood to improve on his last-eight appearance in 2013.

Shot of the day went to Laytown and Bettystown’s Thomas Mulligan who holed a nine-iron from 184 yards at the 16th for his first career hole-in-one and a 78 for 155.

As for Tyrone Clarke, son of 1990 winner Darren Clarke, the 18-year old qualified comfortably on 157 after a 77.

 Pat Murray tees off. Picture © Gordon Adair

Pat Murray tees off. Picture © Gordon Adair

116th South of Ireland Amateur Open, sponsored by Pierse Motors Volkswagen

Detailed scores

Round one

  1. (07:00) C O’Rourke (Naas) v S Desmond (Monkstown);
  2. (07:09) T Clarke (Royal Portrush) v J Lyons, (Galway);
  3. (07:18) T Mulligan (Laytown & Bettystown) v T Cleary (Woodstock);
  4. (07:27) S Carter (The Royal Dublin) v J Yates (Naas);
  5. (07:36) P Murray (Clontarf) v T Hackett (The Royal Dublin);
  6. (07:45) J Fletcher (Warrenpoint) v E Smith (Laytown & Bettystown);
  7. (07:54) M Norton (Belvoir Park) v M Morrissey (Co. Sligo);
  8. (08:03) E Long (Monkstown) v R Lester (Hermitage);
  9. (08:12) JR Galbraith (Whitehead) v P Murphy (Rosslare);
  10. (08:21) C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire) v T O’Connor (Athlone);
  11. (08:30) J McDonnell (Forrest Little) v H Foley (The Royal Dublin);
  12. (08:39) D Murphy (Portarlington) v B Anderson (The Royal Dublin);
  13. (08:48) J Pierse (Portmarnock) v P Coughlan (Castleknock);
  14. (08:57) R Williamson (Holywood) v B Doran (Baltinglass);
  15. (09:06) R Mullarney (Galway) v W Russell (Clandeboye);
  16. (09:15) E Griffin (Waterford) v C Purcell (Portmarnock);
  17. (09:24) S Grehan (Tullamore) v J McVicker (Knock):
  18. (09:33) P Kerr (Royal Portrush) v J Whelan (Newlands);
  19. (09:42) J Ryan (Castletroy) v E Stack (Ballybunion);
  20. (09:51) D Brennan (Shannon) v R Cannon (Balbriggan);
  21. (10:00) P O’Keeffe (Douglas) v O O’Brien (Limerick);
  22. (10:09) S Poucher (Limerick) v M McKinstry (Cairndhu);
  23. (10:18) M O’Kelly (Limerick) v R Brazill (Naas);
  24. (10:27) C Butler (Kinsale) v A Gleeson (Castle);
  25. (10:36) C Campbell Jnr (Warrenpoint) v B Shally (Dromoland);
  26. (10:45) G Ward (Kinsale) v G Smyth (Clonmel);
  27. (10:54) MJ Kennelly (Galway Bay) v A McCormack (Castletroy);
  28. (11:03) J Murphy (Kinsale) v C Fairweather (Knock);
  29. (11:12) G O’Flaherty (Cork) v K Murphy (Charlesland);
  30. (11:21) D Loftus (Yas Links Golf Club, UAE) v G Lenehan (Portmarnock)
  31. (11:30) D McMahon (Castletroy) v J Sugrue (Mallow)
  32. (11:39) D Coghlan (Portmarnock) v R Dawson (Tramore).

Strokeplay qualifying, Lahinch GC, July 26-27

Qualifiers 

143 R Lester (Hermitage), 72, 71

147 R Dawson (Tramore), 74, 73

149 R Cannon (Balbriggan), 76, 73

150 A Gleeson  (Castle), 78, 72; E Smith (Laytown & Bettystown), 77, 73

151 G Lenehan (Portmarnock), 77, 74; C O’Rourke (Naas), 76, 75; C Purcell (Portmarnock), 75, 76

152 J Ryan (Castletroy), 76, 76

153 B Doran (Baltinglass), 78, 75; J Mc Donnell (Forrest Little), 77, 76; G O’Flaherty (Cork), 76, 77

154 S Grehan (Tullamore), 78, 76; M McKinstry (Cairndhu), 75, 79

155 M Kennelly (Galway Bay), 78, 77; T Mulligan (Laytown & Bettystown), 77, 78; J Lyons (Galway), 76, 79

156 G Smyth (Clonmel), 82, 74; J Fletcher (Warrenpoint), 82, 74; J Galbraith (Whitehead), 81, 75; T O’Connor (Athlone), 81, 75; D Coghlan (Portmarnock), 80, 76; J Whelan (Newlands), 80, 76; D McMahon (Castletroy), 80, 76; M Norton (Belvoir Park), 80, 76; M Morrissey (Co. Sligo), 79, 77; J Sugrue (Mallow), 79, 77; P Kerr (Royal Portrush), 78, 78; W Russell (Clandeboye), 78, 78; J Yates (Naas), 77, 79

157 C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire), 84, 73; B Anderson (The Royal Dublin), 82, 75; R Brazill (Naas), 81, 76; G Ward (Kinsale), 80, 77; T Clarke (Royal Portrush), 80, 77; T Cleary (Woodstock), 78, 79; P Murray (Clontarf), 78, 79

158 A McCormack (Castletroy), 83, 75; S Poucher (Limerick), 83, 75; H Foley (The Royal Dublin), 82, 76; S Loftus (Yas Links Golf Club, UAE), 82, 76; E Stack (Ballybunion), 81, 77; J Pierse (Portmarnock), 81, 77; R Williamson (Holywood), 81, 77; M O’Kelly (Limerick), 80, 78; C Campbell (Warrenpoint), 78, 80; T Hackett (The Royal Dublin), 78, 80; K Murphy (Charlesland), 78, 80; D Brennan (Shannon), 78, 80; P Coughlan (Castleknock), 77, 81; P O'Keeffe (Douglas), 76, 82

159 D Murphy (Portarlington), 82, 77; O O’Brien (Limerick), 81, 78; C Fairweather (Knock), 80, 79; J Murphy (Kinsale), 80, 79; S Carter (The Royal Dublin), 75, 84; S Desmond (Monkstown), 74, 85

160 B Shally (Dromoland), 84, 76; C Butler (Kinsale), 84, 76; P Murphy (Rosslare), 82, 78; E Griffin (Waterford), 80, 80; J McVicker (Knock), 80, 80; R Mullarney (Galway), 80, 80; E Long (Monkstown), 79, 81.

Non-qualifiers

160  T Ford (Co. Sligo), 79, 81; R McKinstry (Cairndhu), 78, 82; B Murray (Waterford Castle), 78, 82

161 M Looby (Greystones), 84, 77; K Bornemann (Douglas), 82, 79; T McLarnon (Massereene), 82, 79; G Lappin (Belvoir Park), 81, 80; M Shiel (Galway Bay), 81, 80; J Walsh (Castle), 80, 81; M Power (Kilkenny), 80, 81; A Mulhall (Ardglass), 79, 82; L Donnelly (Kilkenny), 79, 82

162 R Dutton (Tandragee), 85, 77; R Steedman (Courtown), 85, 77; C Rafferty (Dundalk), 83, 79; D Lowry (Corrstown), 81, 81; J Kehoe (Limerick), 79, 83; M Ryan (New Ross), 78, 84; G Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick), 78, 84

163 S Greenberg (Tandragee), 87, 76; S Walsh (Portmarnock), 85, 78; M Boucher (Carton House), 84, 79; P Kelly (Co. Armagh), 83, 80; L Grehan (Mullingar), 82, 81; M MacGrath (Lahinch), 81, 82; K McCarron (North West), 81, 82; J Sutherland (Galgorm Castle), 81, 82; J Hickey (Cork), 78, 85

164 C Cunningham (Carton House), 86, 78; C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown), 86, 78; M Grehan (Tullamore), 83, 81; D Brophy (Castleknock), 82, 82; P O’Hara (Kilkenny), 81, 83; G Nugent (Kilkenny), 79, 85

165 E Leonard (Wentworth/Killiney), 86, 79; R Knightly (The Royal Dublin), 85, 80; J Greene (Portmarnock), 83, 82; J Knipe (Royal Portrush), 81, 84; E Power (Kilkenny), 81, 84

166 M Buggy (Castlecomer), 91, 75; S Ledbury (GC de Louvain La Neuve, Belgium), 88, 78; J Hood (Galgorm Castle), 84, 82; A Fahy (Dun Laoghaire), 83, 83; T Collins (Dun Laoghaire), 82, 84; H O’Hare (Fortwilliam), 81, 85; R Pierse (Grange), 80, 86

167 C Dowling (Mallow), 89, 78; A McDaid (Palmerstown Stud), 89, 78; A Ryan (Thurles), 88, 79; D Mc Inerney (Lahinch), 87, 80; D Morley (Oughterard), 84, 83; D Foy (Laytown & Bettystown), 84, 83; A Lynch (Bray), 83, 84; D Reddan Jnr (Nenagh), 82, 85

168 T Neenan (Lahinch), 86, 82; S Sweeney (Vista Valencia USA), 85, 83; S Ryan (The Royal Dublin), 83, 85; S Hogan (Nenagh), 82, 86

169 S McGlynn (Portmarnock), 88, 81; W Small (Tandragee), 87, 82; G McGrane (The Royal Dublin), 87, 82; P Connolly (Killeen Castle), 86, 83; M Reddan (Limerick), 84, 85; R O’Connor (Co. Sligo), 82, 87

170 J Blake (The Island), 87, 83; J Rackard (Enniscorthy), 85, 85; P Sheehan (Ballybunion), 83, 87

171 P Carey (Nenagh), 86, 85

172 P Fitzpatrick (Kanturk), 91, 81; D Sheedy (California GC USA), 89, 83; G O’Connor-Brooks (Lake Bluff Golf Club, USA), 88, 84; C Ryan (Dun Laoghaire), 86, 86

173 C Kelly (Fort Lauderdale CC, USA), 85, 88; P O’Connor (Macroom), 84, 89

174 B Tolsma (Apple Valley Golf Club, USA), 89, 85

176 C Nolan (Galway), 93, 83; P Flynn (Tramore), 89, 87

178 G Carr (Mullingar), 90, 88

180 P Gribben (Warrenpoint), 89, 91

182 K Connolly (The Heritage), 98, 84

185 D Crawford (Bundoran), 90, 95

NR B McGarry (Nenagh); G Young (Nenagh); M Horan (Birr)

RTD M Nolan (Delgany); S Healy (The Royal Dublin)